Govt, contractors disagree over N30b MDGs unpaid claims
THE Federal Government and contractors handling the 2013 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) projects across the country are locked in dispute with the latter insisting government owed them a debt of over N30 billion, while the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs is debunking the` claim.
The contractors took to the street in Abuja last week, alleging that the Federal Government through the MDGs Office had awarded the same projects in 2014 to other contractors and paid them 100% while 2013 projects remain unpaid.
However, in reaction to the contractors’ claims, the Head of Information and Communication Unit, Office of Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Dr. Christopher Otabor at a press briefing in Abuja told the newsmen that the claims by the contractors was a fabrication.
Although he accepted that the Federal Government owes the contractors, he however, disagreed on their claim that the debt was over N30 billion.
According to Otabor, the original appropriated amount for 2013 projects was just about N32 billion and about 64% of that money has been released and contractors paid their money.
He said “some people gathered together in the name of MDGs contractors and Advocate for People Rights and Justice (APRJ), they displayed placard and they conducted the peaceful protest around the eagle square to Federal Secretariat as well as to the Ministry of Finance. What were their grievances? They claimed that money meant for the payment of 2013 special project contractors has been embezzled by the officers in the office and they also claimed that 2014 contractors for the office were paid while 2013 contractors are yet to be paid among many other issues that we intend to trash out shortly.”
“Let me give you a brief historical background. In 2013, the National Assembly appropriated money through the office as they always do to execute the constituency projects and inline with due process and after all the procurement procedure award letters were given to the contractors. What was clearly stated in there was advertisement that came out in two national newspapers the Federal tender journal is that 60% of the job must be done before the contractors get 50% of the payment and on completion of the job they will get the balance 50%.
“So, that means after initials the contractors were already being owed by the office even before they completed the job because it was not supposed to be in advance. And this is because of what we anticipated from the budgetary release. Unfortunately, things did not go the way we planned it but the same set of contractors that completed their jobs they were all paid their money inline with the agreement. And that amounted to about to two-third of the total contractors that work with the office in 2013 because the less than two third of the money that was appropriated was actually released. I need you to understand something, 100% appropriation, less than two third release that means there will be deficit and that deficit is job already awarded and is job already done. That means the office will be in debt to contractors. Well, that should not be new for those of us who are used to government processes. Now they claimed that N30 billion is being owned to contractors. That will not been even possible because the original appropriated amount for 2013 projects was just about N32 billion and about 64% of that money has been released and contractors has been paid.”
He also explained that the Federal Government law disallowed using the monies meant for 2014 projects to pay contractors handling MDGs 2013 projects, adding that 2014 was a new financial year.
According to him, breaching the law is tantamount to imprisonment. “2014 is a new financial year and is a new appropriation because the 2013 Appropriation Act, which begin on its own is completely different from the 2014 appropriation Act that was also passed by the National Assembly and the monies are released separately. 2013 budget was concluded and done with it but what we did was to make provision for the completion of 2103 jobs in 2014 budgets. But unfortunately, in 2014, the release was even much lower. As I speak to you can confirm that from every agency of government. The first quarter of 2014 was not released at all.
“The total appropriation for 2014 in many ways was far less than 50%. And any money that is released for payment for 2014 jobs, if it s used to pay for 2013 jobs that constitutes what we called…and the constitution stipulates that is a crime.